President Obama's designation of nearly 500,000 acres of desert land along the U.S.-Mexico border as a national monument on Wednesday was praised by conservation groups, but it's also raising concerns in some quarters about border security.
The fear is that the designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Southern New Mexico -- and the added layers of bureaucracy it creates -- would jeopardize the ability of law enforcement to effectively secure the border in the area. For Republicans, that concern is aggravated by the president's use of executive authority to establish the new monument.
"Once again, the president has chosen to bypass the legislative branch - and, in this case, do so in a manner that adds yet another challenge in our ongoing efforts to secure our southern border," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a statement. "At a time of continued cartel violence in Mexico, we should not be putting any additional restraints on efforts to protect our borders."
The new designation, Boehner warned, would place "additional burdens on Border Patrol personnel and limit access to high crime areas along the border, making it easier for drug smugglers and human traffickers to move in and out of the country."
Contrary to the speaker's claims, officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the establishment of the monument would not limit their ability to secure the border in the area, according to the Associated Press. Others have pointed out that the designation of a national monument could bring more federal money -- and more Border Patrol resources -- to the area.
Still, at least one local law enforcement official worried that the president's proclamation would make his job more difficult.
"If we have no ability to patrol that area, crime is going to increase," Dona Ana county Sheriff Todd Garrison told the AP. "I wonder how many years it will be before we have to post signs that say 'Enter at your own risk.'"
And Rep. Todd Bishop, R-Utah, said the president was more interested in making a political statement than protecting the environment.
"The decision stands, and now we have to go back in and try and fix it," he explained. "That is just a backward way of trying to have good government...Originally the Antiquities Act was used to try and preserve stuff. These recent presidents are abusing the process to make a political statement, not to save anything."